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December 8, 2016

    Sheila Kennedy, an IUPUI professor, writes an almost daily blog on varying topics and asks for commentary. Today she was noting Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Betsy is a billionaire foe of public education, very religious, and her prospective hook-up with Mike Pence, vice-president elect and also very religious and a foe of public education as governor of Indiana, is thought to present a real problem to the future of education. I agree, and the following, slightly edited, was my response.

    Betsy, Pence and their cohorts should look to the Christian history they pretend to hold so dear. When they do, they will find that Jesus was not into education at all, and that (per red letter) he advised those about him to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

    Education is a Caesar thing and Jesus was clearly one who distinguished between church and state, as our Constitution once did before the Betsys and Mikes of this world got into the act. Case closed, or should be, but billionaires have the resources to appeal the apparent judgment of the one they ostensibly worship. Their purpose, of course, is to provide an environment where innocent children are indoctrinated not only with specific religious views but are also taught to work hard and be good in furtherance of the continued accumulation of money and power by such as the DeVoses, Kochs, Sam Walton’s heirs, and that consummate Christian and billionaire (he says), Donald J. Trump, who will (he says) shortly lead us out of the wilderness.

    These billionaires and their political toadies such as Pence apparently pick and choose which scriptures are applicable to their conduct. I refer them to that section of scripture that points out that it is more difficult for a rich man to get into heaven than it is for a camel to get through the eye of a needle. Given our gender parity these days, I presume that such an impossibility would also apply to Betsy and the heiresses of Sam Walton, all billionaires.

    While such people may be in charge of a selective reading of ancient scriptures as a rule and guide to their personal conduct, they have no right to choose and adopt such a rule and guide for the rest of us taxpayers who are funding the education enterprise any more than we taxpayers have a right to choose and adopt and enforce a rule and guide for their personal conduct. The right to render unto what is Caesar’s is a secular enterprise funded by tax money paid by all of us, and those who would privatize such an enterprise or choose curricula based upon religious views should bug out. It’s the business of all of us and not just a religious or profit-minded few, and we must vigorously defend that position if our progeny and theirs are to prosper and survive in a democratic society.

    Thus what if the shoe were on the other foot and government marched into churches, mosques and temples and dictated to their members who funded such organizations what was to be taught and who was to teach it? They would properly be outraged, of course, and well within their rights, as we are well within our rights to be outraged at this invasion of public education by the rich and powerful in pursuit of a buck with religion as a cover.

    I am sure that John Dewey, eminent educator whose monographs I have read and a favorite author of my now deceased wife (who herself was a university professor of education), would be utterly appalled at this turn of events in which the tail wags the dog – and with the dog’s money.     GERALD      E


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